Open Contest To Name 20 New Moons Of Saturn

Today, Scott Sheppard of Carnegie Institution for Science launched a contest to name 20 newly discovered moons of Saturn. For those keeping score,  Saturn (now with 82 moons) leapfrogged past Jupiter (79 moons) to claim satellite supremacy.

Illustration is courtesy of the Carnegie Institution for Science, Saturn image is courtesy of NASA/JPL-Caltech/Space Science Institute. Starry background courtesy of Paolo Sartorio/Shutterstock.

Dust off history books, brush up on Norse, Gallic and Inuit mythology – between now and December 6, 2019 the contest is open to anyone who follows IAU rules. Follow link below to enter contest.

From Wikipedia –

In 1847 the seven then known moons of Saturn were named by John Herschel. Herschel named Saturn’s two innermost moons (Mimas and Enceladus) after the mythological Greek Giants, and the outer five after the Titans (Titan, Iapetus) and Titanesses (Tethys, Dione, Rhea) of the same mythology. Until then, Titan was known as the “Huygenian (or Huyghenian) satellite of Saturn” and the other moons had Roman numeral designations in order of their distance from Saturn. Subsequent discoverers of Saturnian moons followed Herschel’s scheme: Hyperion was discovered soon after in 1848, and the ninth moon, Phoebe, was named by its discoverer in 1899 soon after its discovery; they were named for a Titan and a Titaness respectively. The name of Janus was suggested by its discoverer, Audouin Dollfus.

Current IAU practice for newly discovered inner moons is to continue with Herschel’s system, naming them after Titans or their descendants. However, the increasing number of moons that were being discovered in the 21st century caused the IAU to draw up a new scheme for the outer moons. At the IAU General Assembly in July 2004, the WGPSN allowed satellites of Saturn to have names of giants and monsters in mythologies other than the Greco-Roman. Since the outer moons fall naturally into three groups, one group is named after Norse giants, one after Gallic giants, and one after Inuit giants. The only moon that fails to fit this scheme is the Greek-named Phoebe, which is in the Norse group.

  • Two of the newly discovered prograde moons fit into a group of outer moons with inclinations of about 46 degrees called the Inuit group. All name submissions for this group must be giants from Inuit mythology.
  • Seventeen of the newly discovered moons are retrograde moons in the Norse group. All name submissions for this group must be giants from Norse mythology.
  • One of the newly discovered moons orbits in the prograde direction and has an inclination near 36 degrees, which is similar to those in the Gallic group, although it is much farther away from Saturn than any other prograde moons. It must e named after a giant from Gallic mythology.

Diamond Rain, Bergs and Liquid Floaters

Earthly diamonds begin as carbon deposits 100 miles or more below the surface. Location is everything – carbon heated to 2,000 degrees Fahrenheit, squeezed under pressure of 725,000 pounds per square inch, lucky enough to cool quickly by hitching a ride on upward flowing magma, become diamonds.

Science knows there’s more than one way to make a diamond. Just as bakers adjust recipes for high altitude cooking, the cosmos creatively adapts to unique circumstance. Earthly optimists turn lemons into lemonade, cosmic forces create diamonds from carbon in the unlikeliest  of places.

Science has speculated for some time that chilly cores of Neptune and Uranus glisten with diamonds. A few years ago science singled out 55 Cancri e, an exo-planet 40 light years from our solar system as a planetary body comprised almost entirely of diamonds. Recently, science said – “new data available has confirmed that at depth, diamonds may be floating around inside of Saturn, some growing so large that they could perhaps be called ‘diamondbergs,'”. Diomand-bergs, good grief! What does that even mean?

Apparently behemoth lightening storms on Saturn and Jupiter create elemental carbon in the form of soot and graphite. Falling deep into the atmosphere, heat and pressure produce diamonds of unfathomable girth. Deeper still, extreme heat and pressures melt solid gems into diamond rain. From diamond-bergs floating in a hidden sea of fluid hydrogen and helium, to other worldly ghost clouds of diamond rain a simple truth emerges – the universe sparkles, even in the shadows it knows how to bake a diamond.

Image result for diamond rain saturn


Goodnight Cassini

When I wake in the morning Cassini will be gone. Her fiery demise, fitting epitaph for an exquisitely orchestrated journey to benefit mankind. The cosmos doesn’t belong to soldiers or politicians, it waits for stoic civil servants dubbed Cassini to give our universe dimension.

A link detailing Cassini’s Grand Finale –

This video is how I say goodnight Cassini, a lullaby of images in honor of a cosmic journey that stole my heart. Goodnight Cassini, sleep well.


Stoic Cassini Dives Into Rings Of Saturn

Without apology to explain fondness for her remarkable existence, suffice to say Cassini’s eminent demise weighs on my mind. On September 15, 2017, just 30 days shy of her 20th launch anniversary, assisted suicide concludes the little mission that could. The magnitude of Cassini will percolate long after she’s gone.

Link to all things Cassini –

Below – compilation of 21 images taken last week,captured by wide angle camera over 4 minutes as Cassini briefly plunged between Saturn’s innermost ring and planetary body. The rings move up as Cassini flies from sunlit to dark side. At the bottom, a gray band of Saturn’s “C Ring”. Middle, bright strip of the “B Ring”, beyond that a dimmer band of “A Ring”, and then a filament of “F Ring”. Rings appear scrunched due to Cassini’s extreme angle of view.

Link to Cassini’s timeline –

Oh Cassini, you served us well. The magnitude of your unassuming contributions will percolate in cosmic wonder long after you’re gone. Watch Cassini: The Wonder of Saturn, suspend belief and wish her well. –

Cassini Reveals Saturn’s Hexagon Border

Oh Cassini, have I mentioned lately how much I admire you? In October 2015, defined you as NASA’s unassuming civil servant, know that your exemplary service to humanity will never be forgotten.

On April 26, 2017 Cassini embarked on the first of 22 dives toward the heart of Saturn. Sliding dutifully between Saturn’s inner ring and outer atmosphere, Cassini encountered little resistance. Unaware of external trepidation, oblivious to collective relief she wasn’t obliterated by cosmic debris, Cassini documented her journey with stoic pride.

On May 4, 2017 NASA released this video, a Cassini eye view exposing mysteries of Saturn’s hexagon north pole cloud system and central vortex. Images that suggest neighboring hexagon and vortex clouds never mix –

In September 2017 a wild abandon death plunge toward Saturn will terminate the mission. Cameras rolling, Cassini’s demise will cement the legacy of an unassuming civil servant determined to advance science.

Outstanding link to Cassini timeline –

Pondering Cassini’s Imminent Demise

April 26, 2017 marks the beginning of NASA’s Cassini Mission end. Twenty years from home, fuel supplies close to exhaustion, Cassini’s imminent demise starts with the first of 22 planned dives between the rings of Saturn. The final plunge on September 22,2017 will lay Cassini to rest somewhere in the arms of Saturn. Mindful of protecting one of Saturn’s 62 moons from impact of an out of control space probe, Cassini’s assisted suicide is planned to maximize scientific discovery.

Thomas Zurbuchen, associate administrator for the Science Mission Directorate at NASA said – “No spacecraft has ever gone through the unique region that we’ll attempt to boldly cross 22 times. What we learn from Cassini’s daring final orbits will further our understanding of how giant planets, and planetary systems everywhere, form and evolve. This is truly discovery in action to the very end.”

These videos give me goosebumps. Oh Cassini, know your service to humanity mattered.

Timeline of Cassini Mission –


Titan Touchdown

On January 11, 2017 NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory ( JPL ) released “Titan Touchdown”, a short video of stoic little probe Huygens landing on Saturn’s moon Titan. A video marking the 12th anniversary of January 14, 2005, the day Huygens bravely marched into history as the furthest ever landing from Earth. The day Huygens met fate in a blaze of glory, making the most of precious minutes until Titan claimed it for eternity.

The Cassini-Huygens mission holds a place in my heart – RIP Huygens, your sacrifice won’t be forgotten.

Cassini’s Curtain Call

NASA’s unassuming civil servant Cassini has a thing or two to prove. Before graciously accepting an inevitable and long overdue retirement -Cassini   obligingly agreed to traipse through daunting plumes of ice and water vapor, allowing mankind unprecedented insight into ice plumes erupting from the south pole of Saturn’s moon Enceladus.

Eighteen years after launch, seven years en-route to Saturn, eleven years exploring Saturn and her moons, two mission extensions beyond wildest expectations – Cassini has nothing to lose. On October 28 this sentiment meant taking a dive at 31,000 kph to within 45 Km of Enceladus at the south pole, directly into erupting “plumes” of icy vapor.

Below – seven facts about Cassini/Enceladus from earthsky (linked above)

1. Early in its mission, Cassini discovered Enceladus has remarkable geologic activity, including a towering plume of ice, water vapor and organic molecules spraying from its south polar region. Cassini later determined the moon has a global ocean and likely hydrothermal activity, meaning it could have the ingredients needed to support simple life.

2. The flyby will be Cassini’s deepest-ever dive through the Enceladus plume, which is thought to come from the ocean below. The spacecraft has flown closer to the surface of Enceladus before, but never this low directly through the active plume.

3. The flyby is not intended to detect life, but it will provide powerful new insights about how habitable the ocean environment is within Enceladus.

4. Cassini scientists are hopeful the flyby will provide insights about how much hydrothermal activity – that is, chemistry involving rock and hot water – is occurring within Enceladus. This activity could have important implications for the potential habitability of the ocean for simple forms of life. The critical measurement for these questions is the detection of molecular hydrogen by the spacecraft.

5. Scientists also expect to better understand the chemistry of the plume as a result of the flyby. The low altitude of the encounter is, in part, intended to afford Cassini greater sensitivity to heavier, more massive molecules, including organics, than the spacecraft has observed during previous, higher-altitude passes through the plume.

6. The flyby will help solve the mystery of whether the plume is composed of column-like, individual jets, or sinuous, icy curtain eruptions — or a combination of both. The answer would make clearer how material is getting to the surface from the ocean below.

7. Researchers are not sure how much icy material the plumes are actually spraying into space. The amount of activity has major implications for how long Enceladus might have been active.

Linked below, NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory definitive guide to Cassini.

Ponder the exquisite magnificence of Cassini’s accomplishments.

Cassini’s Final Dione

A unassuming civil servant named Cassini has spent 18 dutiful years poking about the cosmos. Her passport stamps – Saturn, Phoebe, Titan, Enceladus, and Venus, joined last week by Dione.

This view from NASA's Cassini spacecraft looks toward Saturn's icy moon Dione, with giant Saturn and its rings in the background, just prior to the mission's final close approach to the moon on August 17, 2015. At lower right is the large, multi-ringed impact basin named Evander, which is about 220 miles (350 kilometers) wide. The canyons of Padua Chasma, features that form part of Dione's bright, wispy terrain, reach into the darkness at left. Image credit: NASA

This view from NASA’s Cassini spacecraft looks toward Saturn’s icy moon Dione, with giant Saturn and its rings in the background, just prior to the mission’s final close approach to the moon on August 17, 2015. At lower right is the large, multi-ringed impact basin named Evander, which is about 220 miles (350 kilometers) wide. The canyons of Padua Chasma, features that form part of Dione’s bright, wispy terrain, reach into the darkness at left. Image credit: NASA

Dione hangs in front of Saturn and its icy rings in this view, captured during Cassini's final close flyby of the icy moon. Image credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech/Space Science Institute

Dione hangs in front of Saturn and its icy rings in this view, captured during Cassini’s final close flyby of the icy moon. Image credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech/Space Science Institute

Cassini’s farewell to Dione allows for scheduled encounters with Enceladus on October 14, 18 and December 19. From December until mission conclusion in late 2017, Cassini plans to visit Daphnis, Telesto, Epimetheus, and Aegaeon, rounding out meticulous exploration of dignitaries among Saturn’s 63 or so moons. Below, Cassini’s timeline and link to NASA’s Casssini Mission –